Front Page

Series Theme: FRAMEWORKS: Paul's FIRST letter to the Corinthians

(Return to Framework Contents)


FRAMEWORKS: 1 Corinthians 12

In this ‘Framework' we use our usual text PLUS comment style to enable you, as simply as possible, to catch the sense of his writing.


FRAMEWORKS: 1 Corinthians 12: Gifts & the Body of Christ


v.1-7 Spirit Distributed Gifts
v.8-11 The Spiritual Gifts
v.12-14 It's One Body with Many Parts
v.15-20 There are different parts to the Body
v.21-26 Each Part needs the others
v.27-31 The Gifts & Ministries


[Chapter Synopsis: Intriguingly, perhaps because he feels he has said enough already, these three chapters [12-14] go together but do not have any strong corrective language as previous chapters have had. The whole tone and nature of these three chapters is clearly instructive and can easily be seen as correctives perhaps to the weaknesses of worship in this church, a charismatic church very clearly, and so these three chapters stand out as Holy Spirit directions for every church. Very specifically Paul's encouragements in chapter 14 challenge any suggestion that God would not want these things for today. The structure of this first chapter identifies the nine ‘gifts of the Spirit' but then these are seen in the light of the unity of the one body made up of many members (us as individuals). It concludes by reminding us that gifts can be translated into ministries for the blessing of the church – see also Eph 4:12,13.]



v.1-7 Spirit Distributed Gifts


v.1 (teaching about the gifts of the Spirit is needful) Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.

v.2 (before being Christians you lived in a silent world, now one where God speaks and moves [implied]) You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.

v.3 (when people extol God, it the Spirit) Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

v.4 (although there are different gifts, it's the same Holy Spirit who hands them out) There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.

v.5 (similarly with ways of serving God) There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.

v.6 (similarly with whatever ways God works) There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

v.7 (now these are all given to bring blessing) Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.


[Passage Synopsis: The main point is that in the church, whether it is gifts, ways of serving, or seeing God working in revelation and power, it's all the work of the Holy Spirit.]



v.8-11 The Spiritual Gifts


v.8-10 (Nine ‘gifts' are identified here) To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom , to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.

v.11 (these are the work of the one Holy Spirit who gives them [enables the individual to express them] as He sees appropriate ) All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.


[Passage Synopsis: The teaching is clear and specific, gifts [except the last two] are expressions of Jesus by his Spirit [seen in his ministry] and enabled by the Spirit to individuals as He sees their availability and openness to be used.]



v.12-14 It's One Body with Many Parts


v.12 (we need to remember the church is just one body, the ‘body of Christ' but the body has many parts) Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.

v.13 (when we were immersed in the Spirit we were made into this one body, regardless of our background) For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

v.14 (so one body, many parts) Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.


[Passage Synopsis: Perhaps because of the divisive nature of this church, a number of times in this chapter Paul emphasizes that we are one body in Christ.]



v.15-20 There are different parts to the Body


v.15 (so we are different parts and using the analogy of a human body, Paul shows how silly it is to dismiss pats of the body that are different from us) Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.

v.16 (so he continues the same analogy…) And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.

v.17 (… and points out how each part contributes a significant and vital function to the whole body) If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?

v.18 (it is God who has made us what we are and arranged us in the body as we are) But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

v.19 (what a freaky body it would be if it wasn't like this) If they were all one part, where would the body be?

v.20 (so, again, one body, many members) As it is, there are many parts, but one body.


[Passage Synopsis: The emphasis moves on to recognise our essential differences.]



v.21-26 Each Part needs the others


v.21 (need of each part becomes the focus) The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don't need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don't need you!”

v.22-25 (weaker or ‘less honourable' parts are just as important) On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

v.26 (we feel when any part suffers) If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.


[Passage Synopsis: The point here is about need and suffering. The reality is we need each part regardless of how visible they are and if one part suffers the whole body becomes aware of it.]



v.27-31 The Gifts & Ministries


v.27 (here again, one body, many parts) Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

v.28 (and some of these parts become ministries) And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.

v.29,30 (but not all and not all the same) Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?

v.31 (note 'eagerly desire' ones that bless the body most, but there is yet a better way to be considered ) Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.


[Passage Synopsis: The concluding section emphasizes yet again the one body comprises many parts, some of which develop into ministries, not all the same but many different ministries, and in Christ we should desire gifts and ministries to bless the body and the world.]